Although the UK’s Leave vote has had no immediate impact on free movement rights, businesses which employ EEA nationals and their family members may wish to start thinking about the implications of BREXIT now. There are risks and opportunities to be aware of and contingency plans which may need to be put in place.
We do not know what, if any, changes will be made to the free movement of workers but given that this was a cornerstone of the Leave campaign, changes should be expected.
To prepare for these possible changes, employers should start by identifying which employees are from the EEA and which employees are reliant on their EEA family member’s status to work in the UK – are they key workers? Employers should consider what the impact would be on the business should these employees not be able to secure their status in the UK or should they decide to leave before Britain’s official exit from the EU.
After carrying out an internal audit, HR staff should speak to line managers and assess whether these roles are critical to the organisation. Is this a hard to recruit area? Would you be able to fill this vacancy with British or settled workers?
Despite the referendum taking place four months ago, we are still finding many employees are worried about their immigration status and are unsure of the support they would receive from their employer should the rules change. This is a good time for businesses to engage in discussion with their employees and consider supporting their applications for Permanent Residence or British nationality.
The Home Office’s fees for processing Permanent Residence applications are relatively low at £65 compared to applications for naturalisation (£1236). By supporting your workers, you would be showing them they are valued.
If you start taking these key steps now, you would have established the key roles affected well in advance of rule changes so when new rules are introduced, the nature and scale of the issues would have already been identified and can be monitored during the period until the UK actually leaves the EU.
On a final note, businesses which hold a Sponsor Licence should ensure continuing compliance with their sponsor duties as a licence may be needed in the future. You should ensure you are aware of changes to the immigration rules as you would want to maintain a good record with the Home Office.
Our business immigration lawyers will be delivering a free seminar at our London offices on 20 October 2016 where they will be providing tips on how to retain and recruit EEA talent in a post-BREXIT world. We invite you to attend the seminar and share your concerns following the referendum.